P. Allen Smith's name is synonymous with good living—the popular gardener has been publishing books on decorating and gardening for years. Now, he branches out into the cookbook world, with predictably fresh and delicious results. This preparation of parsnips from P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden just might make you forget French fries.

Parmesan Parsnip Fingers with Chile Jam Dipping Sauce

serves 6

Parsnips are a wonderful fall-to-winter root vegetable with a mild yet seductive flavor. I’m always amazed that so few people have tried them. In fact, when fried in batter they could be called a poor man’s calamari. They are an overlooked and underused vegetable that deserves much more notice. Now, I’ll have to admit, I was one of those who often passed parsnips by. But after preparing recipes like this delightful appetizer and the White Cheddar Parsnips and Potatoes, I have discovered how tasty they can be.

Growing parsnips, what I call my “slow-motion” crop, has taught me to have more patience. While most vegetables go from seed to harvest in about 60 days, parsnips take a full 120 to 180 days to develop their ivory-colored roots and another two to three weeks for them to emerge from the ground. I often forget where I’ve planted them, so now I mix radish seeds in the same row. The radishes sprout quickly, marking the line and breaking the soil crust. By the time the radishes are ready to pick, they leave just about the right amount of space in the row for the parsnips to develop.


2 pounds parsnips
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 cup (4 ounces) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Chile Jam (recipe follows), for serving


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.

  • Oil a baking pan and place it in the oven to get really hot.

  • Meanwhile, peel the parsnips and cut them into 3-inch-long wedges.

  • When the baking pan is hot, scatter the parsnips in it and roast them for 10 minutes. Remove the parsnips and let them cool slightly.

  • While the parsnips are cooling, mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese in a shallow dish. In a separate dish, mix the egg with the water. In a third dish, mix the flour with the salt.

  • Dip the parsnips, one at a time, into the seasoned flour, then the egg, and finally into the breadcrumbs, coating them completely.

  • Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the parsnips and cook until brown and crispy on the outside and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.

Serve warm, with the Chile Jam for dipping.

Chile Jam

Makes about six 1-pint jars

1 pound very ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
4 large dried red chiles (seeds left in if you want your jam hot)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced thin
1½ cups superfine sugar
¾ cup red wine vinegar

Place half of the tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and add the garlic, chiles, and ginger. Process until pureed. Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan. Add the sugar and vinegar, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring slowly. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cut the remaining tomatoes into a fine dice and add them to the pan. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring from time to time. The mixture will turn slightly darker and sticky.

Ladle the Chile Jam into warm, dry sterilized jars, and seal with the lids while the mixture is still warm.

The longer you keep this jam, the hotter it gets. It keeps for about 3 months in the refrigerator.

Note: This jam is also good over cream cheese and served with crackers.


Reprinted from the book P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden by P. Allen Smith.  Copyright © 2010 by P. Allen Smith.  Photographs copyright © 2010 by Ben Fink.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

Read our review of this book.

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